During a March visit and following dinner at the 330 Grill in the Doubletree Hotel downtown, I walked along Market Street to newly created Centennial Plaza and passed by the County Courthouse, an architectural gem, beautifully floodlit at night. Be sure to take note of the angels at the top of the tower of the Beaux Arts style building, now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Centennial Plaza, adjacent to the Canton Brewing Company, was built to celebrate last year’s 100th anniversary of the founding of the NFL in Canton no less. In addition to a high definition TV screen, a café and a 5,000 person event lawn, the plaza features 11 steles that recognize all the NFL players on active roster over the past century.
While the 2021 NFL football season is still months away and, if the current football vacuum has left you edgy, you might want to consider visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame for some pigskin relief.
THE PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
As of 2020, 326 candidates have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame Gallery, an almost reverential space where bronze busts of all the “Gold Jacket” members are on display. With the simple touch of a screen, visitors can retrieve information on each inductee such as a bio and photos and videos.
Enshrinement Week for the 2020 Centennial Year was postponed due to the coronavirus. The 20 selections will, however, be inducted this year on August 7, a day before the 2021 selections will be inducted. Enshrinement Week (Aug. 5-8) includes the annual Hall of Fame Game in adjacent Tom Benson Stadium pitting the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 5.
To be eligible for induction, a player or coach must be retired for 5 years. A committee of 48, mainly made up of media from NFL cities, usually select 4 to 8 inductees each year.
All Enshrinement Week events are open to the public, and tickets can be purchased by phoning 844-751-0532.
WHAT’S THERE TO SEE
Interestingly, the original building is a round structure, the top of which appears to be pierced by a large football-shaped protuberance that covers a two story rotunda. Visitors can enter the rotunda via a new entrance that empties into the NFL’s First Century Gallery. There, they can experience the story of pro football from its very beginnings in 1920 through today via unique artifacts and hi-tech interactives.
The space documents inspirational stories of players, coaches and events, including the “Road to Equality.” Black players did play in the early years of the NFL but were later “phased out.” The league was all-White from 1930 to 1946, when it was reintegrated after the Los Angeles Rams signed tailback Kenny Washington and Woody Strode and the Browns (in the AAFC) signed Marion Motley and Bill Willis. The date was one year before the Dodgers broke the baseball color barrier by including Jackie Robinson on the team.
In the Hunt/Casterlane Gallery you’ll find the most valued and highest rated football card collection in the world. With over 300,000 cards, the collection includes Rookie cards for every Hall inductee, including the most highly graded one for Joe Namath.
If you like taking selfies, stop by the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery and enjoy a photo op standing next to a replica of the Lombardi Trophy, a 7-pound, sterling silver award designed by Tiffany.
Visitors can also learn informational tidbits like the fact that Lamar Hunt came up with the title “Super Bowl” when he saw his children playing with a toy called Super Ball. While in the gallery, scan the exhibit of every Super Bowl championship ring from the 54 championship teams.
For a bit of a rest, take a seat in the Super Bowl Theater where you can get an up close and personal, ground-level look at the 2019 season and highlights from Super Bowl LIV.
Other areas of interest include the Pro Football Today Gallery, artifacts from the inductee class of 2020 in the Locker Room exhibit, a look at women in football and artifacts from the Black College Football Hall of Fame, the Unites States Football League and the history of the NFL’s Sunday Night Football.
For an exciting adventure, drop in at the Game of Life Theater where holograms of football legends like George Halas, Joe Namath and Vince Lombardi appear on stage and tell examples of how football inspired them and taught them lessons they could use in everyday life.
For more information, phone 330-456-8207 or www.profootballhalloffame.com.
Fun Video on Canton by Bill Rockwell. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYSaULIP4U0&t=2s.
In the near future the adjacent Hall of Fame Village will become home to the Hall of Fame Waterpark, The Eleven (A Hilton Tapestry Hotel), Constellation Center for Excellence, Center for Performance, Retail Promenade, and Play-Action Plaza. Through the assets built in Phase II, the Village will become a full destination home to concerts and sporting events where fans from all across the nation can visit, stay, and enjoy.”
The proposed cost of construction is $300 million.
NEED MORE IN THE WAY OF FOOTBALL?
A 15 minute ride away in the charming town of Massillon, the Paul Brown Museum is a museum within a museum. The galleries are dedicated to the memory of the man who invented the modern game of football, the namesake of the Cleveland Browns and one of the greatest football coaches ever to have lived.
The museum, 121 Lincoln Way East, holds artifacts from Brown’s own collection, uniforms, photos, an interactive app and space devoted to the Massillon Tigers, the team that launched Brown’s coaching career. Phone 330-833-4061. https://paulbrownmuseum.org/
Back in downtown Canton the First Ladies Museum opened in June 1998 in the former home of Ida Saxton McKinley and long time residence of President William McKinley. The public rooms of the house have been restored to include period furnishings and historical wallpaper.
The museum’s education and research center, located a block away, takes a look at the lives and legacies of the nation’s 48 First Ladies and how their roles developed over time. The current exhibit, “First Ladies on the Campaign Trail,” spotlights their role in developing styles in Presidential campaigns.
In addition to a small theater where films and documentaries of the First Ladies are shown, the center has a collection of related artifacts and photos while a small library room replicates the first White House library created by Abigail Fillmore, wife of President Millard Fillmore.
According to Rebecca Knaggs, park guide, the museum doesn’t interpret the most recent First Ladies, but the National Park Service does include an online biography of former First Lady Melania Trump at www.firstladies.org/
Admission to the Research Center is free while the fee for the Saxton-McKinley House is $7. firstladies.org/
Present your phone passport at each location for available discounts and possible prizes. For more information, visit https://www.visitcanton.com/
To learn more about McKinley, visit the Presidential Library and Museum in a spacious building near the foot of the memorial. The second floor holds a Street of Shops to give visitors a feel for what it was like to live in the 19th century with looks inside a barber shop, cabinet shop, blacksmith shop, department store and more.
The nearby McKinley Gallery holds the world’s largest collection of McKinley related artifacts.
Veering away from the McKinley theme, the museum also holds Discovery Center, an interactive science center, and the Hoover-Price Planetarium. For more information, go to McKinleymuseum.org.
For a Place to Stay
The Doubletree is located in the heart of Downtown Canton at 320 Market Ave. S. Amenities include free WiFi, an indoor pool and a fitness and business center. Be sure to check out the stylish, in-house restaurant 330 Grill and Bar. Phone 330- 471-8000.